This series from John Chuchman has been inspired by a group of people in Montana who, in turn were inspired by the American Catholic Council last year to make a difference. What makes it so interesting is that we are like eavesdroppers on a conversation of a group of intelligent lay-people who have attempted to go "back to basics" in thinking through their spirituality. As they discern here we are in a time of Spiritual and Religious transition because of the all the new knowledge that humankind is being given access to. How does that affect our beliefs and practices?
Series Navigation: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V
Part V: A Time of Spiritual and Religious Transition
Thoughtful and sincere Christians
feel caught up in an intellectual and religious transition between two stories:
the traditional Christian story
and what many now call the New Story
which comes to us in large part
from evolutionary biology, physics, and astronomy.
The two stories evoke dramatically different reactions.
The new story amazes and awes us.
It invites us to see the world differently.
It challenges us to change.
It is conscious of the connectedness and togetherness of all that exists.
The Christian story seems tethered
to a static, dualistic, and mechanistic paradigm
oblivious to the nature of the Cosmos,
as we now know it.
Framed in old forms and based on old presuppositions,
many Christian prayers, practices, and doctrinal statements
reflect neither the depths of time nor the expanding and evolving universe.
At the same time and deep within,
we Christians hold to our Christian roots and to the gospel story
– the story of God's on-going love affair with humanity
in which the divine breaks into human experience in tangible ways
and invites us into covenanted relationship.
We yearn for a new spirituality
that is grounded in both stories.
We look for a new way to develop a spirituality that honors both stories.
In order to effectively merge these two stories,
we must address two major challenges:
develop a new consciousness grounded in the universe story
and bring our theology and our piety into sync
with this new and enlarged framework.
A new consciousness grounded in the universe story;
Envisioned here is a shift in human consciousness
that allows us to see with a wider lens and in a deeper way.
This shift is already under way.
For many reasons, we view reality
—ourselves, each other, the created world, and God—
from a perspective that is very different
from what ours was say fifty years ago.
And to the degree that we have integrated current cosmology into our worldview,
we are able to acknowledge the togetherness of all things in the universe,
such that each and every part is somehow connected to every other part.
The human race is now beginning to understand itself
as the universe becoming conscious of itself.
The phrase the self-consciousness of the universe,
refers to the evolutionary development of the human species
to the point of possessing the capacity of self-awareness
(I can be aware of my own thoughts and feelings; I can be aware that I am aware).
But it implies an even larger dimension:
I am the universe becoming conscious of itself as a universe.
To make it more concrete,
When I am aware of our planet's evolutionary history,
when I am aware that I have the same basic genes as a worm
(in a more complex combination),
when I know that the human fetus recapitulates the stages of development of life forms that preceded the human,
when I know this, I am the universe conscious of itself.
Clearly, this new way of thinking
has yet to be integrated into the collective consciousness of our culture
or our church,
which is why we struggle to find the vocabulary
with which to describe our experiences
and to tease out implications of this change.
Bring our faith and piety into sync with this new world view;
It is one thing to embrace the new cosmology and the process of evolution.
It is quite another thing to do the analysis/synthesis
of ways in which we can think about God and God's work,
of ourselves in relation to God,
as well as creating the language we need
to describe what it means to live in a
cosmos that is continually evolving and developing.
This promises to be a long and arduous task.
But it is not entirely new and the work has already begun.
For example, Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1900-1955)
wrote extensively on the spirituality and theology of evolution.
Sadly, his Church could not accept his perspectives
and his works were not published
until after his death.
Over the last few decades numerous theologians and spiritual writers
made progress on blending the New Story with the Christian Story.
How might we see God and Jesus in an Evolutionary Universe?
It is important to seek new ways of thinking about God,
of understanding the life and teachings of Jesus,
and understanding the Christian religion.
Here are statements, and perspectives that need to be considered
in any construction of a new and more relevant spirituality
and religious perspective.
Every faith tradition calls forth spirituality and has its own mentor/model.
The core message drawn from all religious traditions and spiritualities,
calls us to live by the golden rule — to treat others as we wish to be treated.
For the Christian tradition, Jesus of Nazareth is our model,
mentor, healer, and savior.
For us, Jesus embodied the Divine Presence in human form
and he too taught the same golden rule:
Love one another as I have loved you.
We strive to follow the way of Jesus, the Christ.
To be a disciple of Jesus is not to cling to Jesus
but to go forth as part of the cosmic family,
to enter into new relationships.
The message of Jesus can be summed up in several key ideas:
make wholes where there are divisions,
forget the past and go forward,
allow the Spirit to work in you to create a new future;
do these things because God seeks a new presence in the cosmos,
a new unity in love, peace and justice.
Jesus shows us that new life is possible;
indeed, the risen Christ is the hope of the cosmos,
the Christ who is coming to be in and through us.
As followers and imitators of Jesus,
we must continually examine what we believe about Jesus.
For example, do we view Jesus as the one who came down from heaven,
was born of the Virgin Mary,
was crucified and died for our sins,
descended into hell,
rose again and ascended into Heaven,
a thirty three year experiment by God in history?
Or might we view the life and teachings of Jesus
as a peak moment in the history of God's ongoing creation,
embodying the divine way of being human,
representing the dawn of a new awareness,
a new way of living that he names the Kingdom of God?
If it is the latter, how do we reframe key elements
such as God's relation to us,
ongoing creation through evolution,
our view of heaven and hell, original sin, and the Paschal Mystery?
And how does it change the way we pray and live in community.
Our spirituality can only be genuinely healthy
if it is based on basic truths that are in accord with the Christian story
and continuously reflected on
based on an ever- changing view of the universe.
Here and now, we can begin our spiritual journey
by building upon basic truths from the Christian story
and relating them to the scientific and historical new world- view of today.
Basic Truths of the Christian Story:
≈ God is infinite ≈
≈ God is everywhere ≈
≈ God sustains all creation ≈
≈ God is unconditional Love ≈
How do we see these truths fitting into our new universal view?
Every one of us is permeated with God dwelling in us and sustaining us.
We see God as one who creates, loves and sustains everything,
rather than an Overseer who rewards and punishes.
We must see ourselves as dwelling places for the sacred
that began with creation.
We are each temples of God.
We view creation as an ongoing evolutionary process
of never ending creativity and transformation.
Nature is part of God's creation
and it is up to us to safeguard it and use it wisely.
All that exists in the Universe is in some way intimately connected
We who call this planet Earth our home are confronted
with many enormously significant issues and concerns.
The Adam and Eve story is a metaphor
that is no longer consistent with our new universe view.
The concept of Original sin is now viewed by many theologians
as our human condition,
our primal instincts not yet totally sublimated by our consciousness.
The theology of atonement/redemption seems dissonant
when viewed through the new story of the universe.
We see Jesus of Nazareth as being fully human.
His example and teaching during his life provided an opportunity
to image God differently
as an all loving, caring and forgiving being.
Jesus died for what he did and said during his lifetime.
His condemnation and death was the result of his standing up
and acting on his beliefs.
The gospels are clear
that the work of Jesus of Nazareth was to proclaim and call forth
the kingdom of God.
With St. Paul we believe Christ has been raised to new life
and now permeates creation.
In Jesus of Nazareth
we are shown the face of that Gracious Mystery we name God.
The gospel invites us into an on-going love affair
with the Gracious Mystery
we name God
who creates and sustains us.
We embrace this Universe story
and recognize glimmers of it in both Hebrew and Christian texts.
In our experience the Christian story becomes even more meaningful
as we grow in our appreciation of the Universe story.
Together these stories give us a sound basis
as we are moved to develop our own spirituality
through reading, studying, meditation and contemplation.
Love, John Chuchman
If you are impatient you can read the full text of this series on John Chuchman's blog.
You might also like to read the original documents from which these reflections are extracted
on the American Catholic Council website HERE.
Series Navigation: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V
The background used to support John Chuchman's reflection has been sourced from stock.xchng one of the sources for free images on the net provided by people who voluntarily upload their work for others to share. Daniel Cubillas who is located in Spain provided today's image. A gallery of Daniel's freely available images can be found at: www.sxc.hu/gallery/dcubillas. The image used in the headline is sourced from the ex-christian net website: new.exchristian.net/2011/02/loving-father.html
John Chuchman is a bereavement counsellor. He is a graduate of John Carroll University and former Ford Motor Company executive (1959-1992). He has been a Hospice volunteer since 1990. John has received Pastoral Bereavement Counselor certification and a Certificate in Spirituality (Kino Institute of Phoenix, Arizona.) In 2000, he was awarded a Master of Arts degree in Pastoral Ministries from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. His website provides information about his regular retreats and information about his books. he also writes a "Poetman" blog which you can find on the website or via this link: [Visit John's blog] | [Visit John's website]
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